DONNE, JOHN. Pseudo-Martyr. Wherein out of certaine Propositions and Gradations, This Conclusion is evicted, That those which are of the Romane Religion in this Kingdome, may and ought to take the Oath of Allegiance. London: by W. Stansby for Walter Burre, 1610. 4to, 218 x 160 mm. (8 7/8 x 6 3/8 in.), contemporary limp vellum, later gilt stamped arms of the Society of Writers to the Signet at center of covers, title lettered in ink on backstrip, stitching along lower hinge broken, some light dampstaining, blank corner of B3 torn away, lower flyleaf torn; folding cloth chemise and slipcase. FIRST EDITION OF DONNE'S FIRST BOOK, text within rule borders, ornamental woodcut initials and head- and tail-pieces. Grolier Wither to Prior 276; Keynes Donne 1; Pforzheimer 298; STC 7048.
A very good copy of Donne's rare first published book. By 1609 Donne had already written most of his poetry, which circulated mostly in manuscript during his lifetime, as well as an earlier controversial prose work, Biathanatos, a treatise on suicide, also published posthumously. The Pseudo-Martyrs was long thought to have been written by order of James I, and Donne was reputed to have composed the book in six weeks, but Keynes points out, citing Gosse, that a passage in Donne's dedication belies this, and that the Table of Chapters had been in manuscript circulation for a long period before the book was finished. The title refers to the Roman Catholic subjects who suffered punishment for refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the King; the book "is not a work of theological controversy, for it deals only with the question of the King's supremacy in order to show, as the title-page states, 'That those which are of the Romane Religion in this Kingdome, may and ought to take the Oath of Allegeance'" (Keynes, p. 4).
Provenance: Jo. Michol, early inscription on title-page, probably John Michell of Devon (received his BA at Oxford in 1601 and his MA in 1604) -- The Society of Writers to the Signet, supra-libros.